Care cases on the rise again, a short marriage and more

Family Law|June 16th 2017

A week in family law

Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for May 2017, and the upward trends have returned, following the decreases last month. In May the service received a total of 1,190 care applications, which is 3 per cent increase compared with those received in May 2016. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,707 new private law cases, a 17 per cent increase on May 2016 levels.

The lengthily-titled ‘Deputy Chief Executive and Courts and Tribunals Development Director of HM Courts & Tribunals Service’ and the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby have announced that a pilot in the South West Region to administratively de-link financial proceedings from divorce proceedings has been successful. They say that it has introduced a more streamlined process which reduces the delays currently experienced by court users as files are transferred between courts (i.e., from the divorce centre, to the local court dealing with the financial remedies claim), by up to two weeks. Accordingly, it has been decided to proceed with a national roll out of the new process to all Courts in England and Wales, next Monday. How long before a local court makes the error of making a financial remedies order before the decree nisi has been pronounced?

The High Court has ordered a hedge fund boss’s charity to pay £282m to his ex-wife’s foundation, following one of Britain’s most expensive divorce battles. Sir Christopher Hohn and his ex-wife Jamie Cooper were divorced in 2013 and in 2014 Cooper was awarded a divorce settlement of £337 million. However, the couple continued to argue over a payment from a children’s charity they set up together, in return for Cooper stepping down from the board of the charity. The charity has now been told it must pay the sum to a new charity set up by Cooper. Hopefully, this will finally draw a line beneath this long-running divorce dispute.

A wealthy financial trader has won her appeal against a decision that she must pay half the matrimonial assets to her ex-husband, despite the fact that it was a short childless marriage and she contributed substantially more to those assets. In 2015 the High Court awarded Julie Sharp’s ex-husband the sum of £2.725 million, representing exactly half of her fortune. The Court of Appeal has now allowed her appeal against that award, reducing it to £2 million. Lord Justice McFarlane said that a departure from the principle that the matrimonial assets of a divorcing couple should normally be shared equally between them was justified by the particular facts of the case, including the short duration of the marriage and the fact that the parties had mostly kept their finances separate. There have been a lot of misleading things said about the decision in the popular press, along the lines that it means that assets will never be shared equally in short marriage cases.  It doesn’t mean that at all, although the headline in the Law Society Gazette that the ruling “gives couples more to bicker about” may not be far from the mark.

Meanwhile, the Charlie Gard case continues. The European Court of Human Rights has decided to continue to indicate to the United Kingdom Government that it should provide Charlie with life support at least until midnight on Monday 19 June 2017, so that the Court can examine any application which may be submitted to it by Charlie’s parents. Perhaps by this time next week we will finally know the outcome of this distressing case. Much has been written about the case, and not all of it favourable to the judges who have made the decisions to date. We should remember, however, that everyone involved in the case, including the judges, is trying to do the right thing for Charlie, whether you agree with their decisions or not.

And finally, I usually try to end the week on a lighter note, but there hasn’t really been any ‘lighter’ news this week. I suppose the most remarkable story is one that echoes a post I wrote on Monday, in which I said that the family can take many more forms than the ‘traditional’ stereotype of mother, father and children. The truth of that was confirmed by news that Colombia has legally recognised a marriage between three men in a polyamorous relationship. I suspect it is only a matter of time before we catch up with our more advanced Columbian cousins.

Have a good weekend.

Author: John Bolch

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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